South Africans who have access to the Internet continue to shop online. The latest survey on online shopping habits by MasterCard Worldwide reveals that 77% of South African’s who have access to the Internet are shopping online and have done so in the past three months.

This is a marginal 3% decline from the previous survey.
It was also found that South Africans who shop online feel that making purchases on the Internet is more convenient, user-friendly and easier than walking into a store or ordering from a catalogue or over the phone.
“The numbers speak for themselves,” says Anthony West, senior vice president and general manager Africa: MasterCard Worldwide.  “The latest MasterCard survey revealed that 83% of South African online shoppers are satisfied with their overall online shopping experience and that 72% of active online shoppers intend to make an online purchase in the next six months.”
This is the third survey on online shopping habits conducted by MasterCard.  It covered 8000 respondents across 14 markets: Australia, China, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and UAE. The inaugural survey was conducted in December 2007.
According to South African research company World Wide Worx, the number of South Africans with access to the Internet has skyrocketed by 15% to 5,3-million users in 2009, and it expects a similar growth rate for 2010.
The MasterCard survey revealed that more people are making use of broadband access technologies such as ADSL (55%); 3G/HSDPA (49%); and GPRS/Edge (25%) which makes the overall online experience much faster and more convenient than previous technologies such as dial-up afforded users. Dial-up however is still used by 16% of respondents to access the Internet.
Further research recently released by World Wide Worx states that the country now has about 930 000 wireless broadband users compared with 630 000 ADSL users. And the growth should continue, with an estimted 11-million South Africans expected to be online by 2015.
When asked for what purposes respondents accessed the Internet, sending or receiving e-mail (90%) topped the list, followed by browsing for materials for study purposes (69%), reading the news (69%) and checking their bank balance (67%). Online shopping was cited by 42% of users.
According to the survey, 87% of South African online shoppers like to plan and research their online purchases in advance. The majority (74%) conduct research about their purchases on the Internet before buying, 69% use the merchant or company’s website for their research and 46% speak to family or friends beforehand.
It was also found that 36% of respondents who shopped online cited themselves as impulse shoppers when browsing the Web.
“Low prices or substantial discounts (59%), unique products only available online (48%), and advertisements and promotions (42%) are still the top three reasons for online impulse buying,” West points out.
“A number of online shoppers (28%) will also make an impulse buying decision if they find a product online that will be available or delivered quicker than going into a physical shop, which shows that instant gratification plays an important role in any buying decision.”
CDs and DVDs are still what South Africa’s internet surfers seek out most on the Web.  Of the participants who had made at least one online purchase in the previous three months, 49% said that they frequently shop for these items online. This was down slightly from the previous survey where 58% of shoppers bought these items.
Closely following CDs and DVDs as the most popular internet purchases is the purchase of airline tickets by 44% of respondents. Home appliances and electronics showed a substantial increase from 30% in 2008 to a current 43% of online purchases. Another noticeable increase was seen in the purchase of ladies’ clothing and accessories, jumping from 12% in 2008 to 22% in 2009.
When it comes to payment for online purchases, credit cards are the most widely-preferred payment method online with just over half of the respondents (52%) using this payment method.  Paying using a debit card (26%) and electronic transfers (10%) followed as the next preferred payment methods.
Of the respondents who had not shopped online in the past three months, almost two thirds (63%) said that they were not sure that making transactions online was secure or safe, a substantial increase from previous year’s score at 44%.
In addition, 55% said they prefer to shop in-store in order to look at the physical product, and 36% said that they did not own a credit card, which reduces their ability to shop online.
“While a number of online retailers do offer alternative payment methods, such as direct bank deposits, using virtual currency or bank loyalty programmes, the perception is that 'to be able to shop online, you need a credit card', which in many cases is true,” he says
South Africans who do shop online were also quick to offer advice on how online stores can improve their current offerings. At the top of their list of recommendations were
* Enhance payment security and improve users’ confidence in online transactions;
* Don’t charge additional service charges on purchases; and
* Make web sites easier to use.
“Online shopping has come a long way in South Africa and this latest MasterCard survey reflects this change. As online shoppers become more savvy and are increasingly satisfied with their online shopping experience, they are purchasing not just lifestyle items such as airline tickets, online games and music downloads, but also basic necessities including home appliances and groceries,”  West concludes.
Other key highlights from the 14 markets surveyed include:
* Top web sites visited by respondents internationally were those of retailers selling home appliances, books & arts, airline, ladies’ clothing and accessories, with each of these categories registering between 36%-38% of the respondents saying they often shop from these sites.
* Most people (84%) do plan ahead when it comes to making purchases online. This is particularly true in Australia, Japan and New Zealand, with about 9 in 10 respondents claiming they would plan before purchasing an item online.
* Japan, specifically, has seen the most significant increase (84% to 94%) in the number of people claiming that they would do advanced planning prior to purchasing online.
* High tendencies of impulse shopping triggers were observed in India for home appliances (52%) and CDs/DVDs (53%), in China for books/arts (52%) and groceries (51%) and Thailand for ladies’ clothing/accessories (55%) and South Africa for CDs/DVDs (50%).
* Top reasons for visiting merchant websites include checking the latest information on products (79%), checking promotional deals (62%) and the intention to make a booking/purchase (60%).